Trump’s latest explanation for the Huawei ban is unacceptably bad

During the past week, the US government UU It has taken extreme and unprecedented action against Huawei, which has prevented each US partner. UU Running the risk of a long-term break in US trade UU And China. But while the impact of the order is clear, it is still not entirely clear why it was implemented.

The official explanation, according to the initial executive order, is that Huawei's hardware puts the United States at risk of espionage. As the order indicates, "foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information technology and communications and services," and the "unrestricted acquisition or use" of hardware made by foreign adversaries worsens those vulnerabilities.

This is a convincing case when it comes to restricting Huawei's role in the network infrastructure, and it is a case that several officials have taken in that context. But it makes much less sense for the exported hardware. Why should not Corning glass or Micron flash memory be sold to Huawei for use in phones destined for Europe? Huawei does not sell phones within the US UU., So the argument of infrastructure security does not make much sense. And if the problem really is that China has a history of intellectual property infringement and theft of trade secrets, the same logic could be applied just as easily to Chinese companies as Lenovo or dronemaker DJI, with catastrophic consequences for those companies and the industry in general.

Complicating all this is the growing commercial war, which takes place in a largely separate diplomatic way. For more than a year, Trump has been applying an increasing series of tariffs to Chinese imports to force leaders to the negotiating table, with China retaliating with its own tariffs and increasing tension as several summits have failed. From a distance, it is easy to see the measures against Huawei as part of that same logic: the pressure exerted on the Chinese economy to obtain concessions in the future. But if that is true, providing a justification for national security would be dishonest and diplomatically counterproductive, causing lasting harm to the credibility of the United States in the event of a true security threat.

The press after an event with agrarian groups. When a reporter asked Trump about the moves against Huawei, his response was worrisome. (The video is here, if you want to see it for yourself, it starts approximately 41 minutes).

TRUMP: Huawei is something that is very dangerous. You look at what they have done from a security point of view, from a military point of view, it is very dangerous. Therefore, it is possible that Huawei is even included in some kind of commercial agreement. If we made a deal, I could imagine that Huawei would possibly be included in some way, as part of a trade agreement.

REPORTER: What would it look like?

TRUMP: It would look very good to us.

REPORTER: But the part of Huawei, how would you design that?

TRUMP: Oh, it's too early to say it. From the point of view of security, we are very concerned about Huawei.

There are two claims here, which Trump makes quite clear: first, that the restrictions were imposed on Huawei because the company is a security threat, and second, that the restrictions against Huawei could be eliminated as part of a commercial agreement .

These two statements are incompatible, or to be more precise, they only make sense if the threat to security is a hoax. It can not negotiate a security threat as part of a trade agreement, for the simple reason that China can not credibly promise to stop spying. No matter what you try, China's spy agencies will continue to search for valuable information within the US. UU If Huawei was a threat before the agreement, it will be just as dangerous later.

Of course, if Huawei were not there It's not really a security threat, and Trump used it as an excuse to escalate the war commercial, that would be even worse. The world of national security operates with confidential intelligence, and life-and-death operations must often be performed for reasons that can not be made public. On those occasions, the president and other government leaders can only tell part of the story, and beyond that, they need the public to trust that there is a valid national security concern to hide the rest. That confidence has been affected in recent years, often for good reason, but it is an important part of what it means to have an intelligence service up and running. Reversing massive restrictions in the wake of a trade agreement would be catastrophic for that credibility, and trust in this institution is the main reason why we should believe that Huawei is a threat in the first place.

I do not know why Executive order was put. It is really plausible that the threat described in the order is real. It is possible that Trump simply spoke out of place and that the company is not part of any broader agreement. But whatever the facts, it is the president's job to justify his actions before the public, to present these measures against Huawei as part of a broader plan undertaken for the good of the country. Trump's executive order has caused immense chaos and concern, not only for Huawei but also for its suppliers in the United States and users around the world. He owes those people an honest explanation of why this was done. So far, they have not got one.

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